Posts filed in: Crocheting and Knitting

The Secret Garden Collection Now Available for Pre-Order

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Hello! Is it snowing where you are? We're having sunshine today. Andy and Amelia are working in the front yard, lifting muck off of the borders and uncovering tender daffodil shoots and tulip leaves. It seems like the perfect day to let you know that our Secret Garden Collection is finally available for pre-order! (To read about my inspiration for these items, please see this blog post.)

Pictured above is BLACKBERRIES AND HEATHER-BELLS — a sweet little design that fits inside a 6" (15cm) hoop (included in the kit) that acts as a frame. With a robin, blackberries and blossoms, heather flowers, ivy leaves, and a hidden key, this design is done in just one ply of DMC embroidery floss and you will be so amazed at the kind of detail you can get with just one ply! I honestly think you will love blending the colors a little bit to get a very naturalistic effect. It's so much fun, is easier than it looks, and actually goes really quickly. The kit costs $22 and will ship toward the end of April, 2019.

Finished size of design area: About 4" (10cm) in diameter

This kit contains:

  • One 9" x 9" (23cm x 23cm) piece of Kona Cotton (100% cotton) fabric by Robert Kaufman in color Pickle
  • One 6" (15cm) plastic faux-wood Flexi-hoop for (very easy!) framing
  • One 6" (15cm) piece of wool-rayon felt for backing
  • (34) 24" (61cm) lengths of various colors of DMC 6-ply cotton embroidery floss
  • Stitching instructions and color chart
  • Illustrated stitch tutorial for special stitches
  • Black and white line drawing for tracing design onto fabric
  • One piece of chipboard for creating a floss organizer

You will need:

To purchase the Blackberries and Heather-bells Embroidery Kit, please CLICK HERE.

 

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The second project from the Secret Garden Collection are the MISSELTHWAITE MITTS.

The same sweet motifs embroidered on this little pair of fingerless mitts are done in duplicate stitch. Knit flat, then embroidered, then stitched up the side with openings left for the thumbs, these handwarmers are perfect to wear at winter’s end, when the soils are just starting to warm and the smell of new growth is in the air. Knit with hand-dyed single-ply fingering-weight 100% Merino yarn, they are easy to make and so soft.

Please note that because I am dyeing all of the yarn to order, I will do my very best to match the colors you see here, but because of the nature of hand-dyeing, there may be some variation. The kit costs $42 and will ship toward the end of April, 2019.

Finished size of mitts: 3.25"w by 8.35"h (8cm x 20cm); to fit average adult woman's hand

This kit contains:

  • One 115g (434yd) skein of single-ply fingering-weight Merino yarn, hand-dyed by me in Misselthwaite Green
  • One pack of cut lengths of the same yarn, hand-dyed in a rainbow of colors for making duplicate stitches
  • Knitting instructions
  • Illustrated stitch tutorial for making duplicate stitches
  • Color charts indicating placement of duplicate stitches

You will need:

  • Size US 1.5 (2.5mm) needles, or size needed to match gauge
  • Yarn needle
  • Row counter

To purchase the Misselthwaite Mitts Knitting Kit please CLICK HERE.

 

Now, let's talk about the SECRET GARDEN APOTHECARY BOX! I'm pretty excited about this! This little box is filled with lovely, handmade, beautifully scented bath and beauty products that we've made for you. The box contains five items, including one 9-oz. jar of salt-and-milk bath soak:

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It contains Epsom salt, pink Himalayan salts, Dead Sea salt, milk powder, colloidal oatmeal, coconut milk powder, phthalate-free fragrance oil, rose Kaolin clay, chamomile flowers, rose petals, cornflowers, jasmine flowers, and calendula petals. You add a few tablespoons to a tea bag and dissolve the contents under warm running water, and soak in that tub for as long as they will possibly let you. . . . At least that's how I try to do it. This smells lightly of cucumber and spring garden scents.

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Also included is one 5-oz. bar of hand-made cold-process soap.

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It is a gentle, lovely soap that contains olive oil; coconut oil; distilled water; sodium hydroxide; castor oil; phthalate-free fragrance oil; blackberry seeds; rose Kaolin clay; purple Brazilian clay; mica; decorated with pink Himalayan salt, jasmine flowers, rose petals, and heather blossoms.

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Not every bar looks exactly the same, but they are all pretty similar to these. I am basically obsessed with this soap. It smells amazing — like rhubarb custard! 

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Also included is one 1.85-oz. lotion bar (almost as big as our full-size lotion bars, but the mold was a bit shallow). It's got a light, pretty floral scent, and contains beeswax; shea butter; coconut oil; lanolin; essential oils of elemi, chamomile, and ylang ylang; and jasmine absolute. It's so perfect for the season. I've been using mine like crazy.

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Also included is one scented wax sachet made of soy wax, beeswax, hyacinth fragrance oil, wax pigments, and dried botanical matter and flowers. It is about 2.5" in diameter, and you can hang it in your closet or in a window to look at every day. I discovered these on Pinterest this past fall. I don't know why I like them so much but I just do. Each one is unique and just so pretty.

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And lastly, included is one 2-oz. jar candle made of soy wax and beeswax, scented with honeysuckle fragrance oil and decorated with gem and mineral chips and dried flowers. These are just tiny, special little candles that burn for about fifteen hours and will make your bath or your evening a little more beautiful.

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Everything comes labeled and packaged together in a little kraft paper gift box, cushioned with paper shred and closed with seam binding and a pretty wax seal. The Apothecary Box is ready for giving, either to yourself or someone you love. The box costs $68 and will ship toward the end of April, 2019.

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To purchase the Secret Garden Apothecary Box please CLICK HERE.

 

We will ship all of these items all over the world this time. But please be aware that the Apothecary Box weighs almost four pounds, and it is expensive to ship overseas. It will ship Priority Mail in the U.S. You will be asked to read our shipping policies before checking out, so please make sure you familiarize yourself with them when you place your order. We will be ordering our labels and the packaging and some of the materials based on how many orders we get for these, so we are planning to ship everything together at the end of April.

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Thank you ever so much for your patience and your interest! This is a really big project for me and I am so excited about it. Please let me know if you have any questions and I will respond here! Xoxo, a

(Nest painting licensed from WitsEnd.)

My Secret Garden Inspiration

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I'm literally aghast at how quickly the days seem to be going right now. I'm not sure why; not sure why they seem to be going so fast and not sure why that leaves me feeling shocked. Amelia's been in kindergarten for almost five months now, and I don't really know why, either, I thought that the days without her in the house would feel longer than the days when she was in half-day preschool. I guess, realistically, I really only have one extra hour before I leave to pick her up each day. We do two extra-curricular activities — ballet once a week and now we will start once-a-week swimming lessons after school today. Swimming is important, and she hasn't taken to the water very naturally. It feels like it's becoming a thing. Her group lessons in the summer aren't really cutting it. She actually regressed between first and second sessions last summer. I've heard good things about these new lessons so, fingers crossed, this is a fun and productive time because the lessons are expensive and also halfway 'round the world. . . .

For the first time in my life, I spend a lot of time in the car. . . .

THANK YOU for the podcast recommendations! Wow??? MANY RECOMMENDATIONS. Also, thank you for the British mysteries+ recs as well. You guys are awesome. Now I just need to find time to go through all of the recommendations and get them downloaded. I am excited. Someone said that the right podcast totally changed their commute. I like that. Also, I can't believe I forgot to mention Agatha Raisin on my list of must-watches. It's our go-to. For some reason, we literally just watch it all the time. It almost doesn't put Andy right to sleep. If you're going to watch it, though, you must try to find the pilot, which for some reason doesn't appear with the first season (this is all on Acorn TV). It's separate, and two hours long. If you watch "Walkers of Dembley" without watching "Quiche of Death" (pilot) you might be really confused. So be sure to search for it. The second season just started. M.C. Beaton (author) has written five thousand books in this series so lets hope this show goes on forever. I love Ashley Jensen. Well, everybody, really. Mathew Horne as Roy is perfect. I've read a ton of the Agatha Raisin books, years ago, actually, and I love the TV series better than the books.

This past fall, as Amelia entered kindergarten and started to show an interest in reading, I started pulling out the books that I had begun to collect for her before she was born. If you've been hanging around here for a while, you might remember this book list that you helped me put together. I remember that when I was working on that list, I bought a few classic books, including The Secret Garden, to start building a library for my future child. It struck me then and still strikes me now that, as much of a voracious reader as I was as a child, I really had very little exposure to what is considered "classic" children's literature. I'd never read The Secret Garden (or Little Women; or The Wind in the Willows; or Anne of Green Gables; or The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, to name just a few . . . ). I bought all of these and more for Amelia back then, in 2010, and I can remember like it was yesterday how I went to Chipotle right after I was at the Barnes and Noble in Lloyd Center, and I was reading this version of The Secret Garden (by Frances Hodgson Burnett) while eating my burrito, and I was about a dozen or so pages in when I thought, "Oh wow, oh no — this is too good." And I shut the book. And as with so much else in my life at that time, I put it in a special place with a pat and a kiss, and decided to wait, so that I could eventually share that experience with my child. . . . For many years, as I waited and worked to become a mother, I would think to myself (and think to myself; I thought this many, many times), "But everything is still ahead of me! All of the firsts are still ahead of me!" And that thought got me through more hard days than I can even now count.

Time was slow, then. Time was painfully, appallingly slow. You were here. You saw that. I busied myself with sewing, and knitting, and kitting out the house, feathering a nest for not months but the years (I just counted them the other day, and it was eight) it took before we had the privilege of becoming parents. And then, once that miracle arrived, and baby came home, and that adoption was finalized, time sped up like you wouldn't believe. Suddenly you're out of breath. It's like the opposite of hurry-up-and-wait — it's wait . . . wait . . . wait . . . and then holy crow hurry up, because baby is crawling, then walking, then talking, then going to preschool, and then her teeth are dropping out of her mouth right and left, and she's reading. . . . And all of that took mere moments. Moments. Entire years of early childhood that have felt like just a few beautiful, excellent, soul-filled, soulful moments. Because suddenly she is six years old. And ready to hear entire paragraphs as you read to her, tucked under your right arm, under the covers in the big bed, nightgowned, teeth-brushed, drowsy, and waiting to begin.

I won't tell you she's quite old enough to hear this whole story, because I don't actually think she is yet. Her attention span is still not quite long enough for long passages of text, or some of the more complicated issues, or some of the more troubling ones. We've read it aloud at night but we've also listened to it a bit on audiobook in the car, and it's pretty clear that I'm generally more into it than she is. But this time, once I started it, I didn't stop. I couldn't put it down. I couldn't turn it off. It is a poignant book, and, though not without its problems (I found this post the other day and thought it was great; and I also must say that I was frustrated that — SPOILER ALERT! — 1) Martha, who is such a brilliant character, pretty much disappears from the second half of the book, and 2) that the book ends on Colin, who I, personally, found much less compelling than Mary, and I truly felt like it was she who had earned the ending far more than he did — but she, too, kind of disappears before the end), it cuts to the heart of loneliness, loss, neglect, friendship, healing, and growth, both metaphorically and literally. I believed in the power of the garden, of planting seeds, of waiting and watering, and I still believe now, even more.

Sometimes I wish that I had read just this one book back then, in 2010. I think I could've made an exception for this particular one, back then.

The other wonderful thing about this book is just the gorgeous, evocative imagery: the purple heather-covered moors; a big Gothic manor with weird sounds wuthering through the halls; wintergreen and walled gardens; a lonely little girl skipping rope in a hundred circles; tiny plants poking their ways through dead leaves and detritus as they've been doing for many an unwitnessed year. The scene near the beginning when Mary, talking to Ben Weatherstaff the crusty old gardener, befriends the robin was the first in the book that moved me so much. Ben had just finished telling Mary that she and he were "wove out th' same cloth. We're neither of us good-lookin' an' we're both of us as sour as we look. . . ." Suddenly, the robin landed a few feet away in an apple tree:

    "He's made up his mind to make friends with thee," replied Ben. "Dang me if he hasn't took a fancy to thee."
    "To me?" said Mary, and she moved towards the little tree softly and looked up.
    "Would you make friends with me?" she said to the robin, just as if she were speaking to a person. "Would you?" And she did not say it either in her hard little voice or in her imperious Indian voice, but in a ton so soft and eager and coaxing that Ben Weatherstaff was as surprised as she had been when she heard him whistle.
    "Why," he cried out, "tha' said that as nice an' human as if tha' was a real child instead of a sharp old woman. Tha' said it almost like Dickon talks to his wild things on th' moor."
    "Do you know Dickon?" Mary asked, turning round rather in a hurry.
    "Everybody knows him. Dickon's wandering about everywhere. Th' very blackberries an' heather-bells knows this. I warrant th' foxes shows him where their cubs lies an' th' skylarks doesn't hide their nests from him."

For some reason that forlorn, unwanted child, and that sweet robin, and that earthling boy, and the phrase "blackberries an' heather-bells" sort of unlocked this massive whoosh of ideas for me recently. I started designing my most recent craft projects and apothecaries around them. The collection of photos and illustrations above has fed my imagination while I have been working.

"Circumstances, however, were very kind to her, though she was not at all aware of it. They began to push her about for her own good. When her mind gradually filled itself with robins, moorland cottages crowded with children, with queer, crabbed old gardeners and common little Yorkshire housemaids, with springtime and with secret gardens coming alive day by day, and also with a moor boy and his 'creatures', there was no room left for the disagreeable thoughts . . ."

Like Mary, my thoughts this winter have been filled with these things of Misselthwaite, and I hope you might find inspiration in them, too. (If you haven't read the book, or haven't read it in a while, I can't recommend the Inga Moore version enough.) I will probably start taking pre-orders for my two Secret Garden craft kits (one knitting, one embroidery [not cross stitch]) as well as the bath boxes we are working on sometime next week or so. I'm almost done taking photos of the items I am going to include, and I will tell you all about them then. It's been so much fun doing this, and I can't wait to share all the things we've made.

Boy, this really took me a long time to write, sorry! Phew!

Photos and illustrations, from top to bottom: 1. By Molly Brett 2. By Johanna Basford 3. By Flavia Sorrentino 4. Yorkshire Dales by Mike Williams 5. By Emma Lazauski 6. Unknown illustrator, from art.com 7. Vintage postcard from 1908 8. Thwaite, England, by Dave Dunford (and, curiously, Thwaite is about ten miles from the towns [Reeth,Grinton, and Marrick] that my ancestors-I-never-knew-about-until-last-year are from — so trippy!) 9. By Inga Moore 10. Vintage china pattern 11. Frances Hodgson Burnett 12. Still from The Secret Garden movie, 1993 13. By Julian deNarvaez 14. By Johanna Basford 15. By Russell Barnett 16. By Giovanni Manna 17. By Rachael Saunders 18. Vintage botanical print 19. Yorkshire Dales by A. Leighton 20. By Inga Moore 21. Tasha Tudor 22. Biodiversity Library 23. Unknown 24. By Aliki Kermitsi 25. Gathering Blackberries by William Stewart MacGeorge 26. Blackberry by Margaret Tarrant 27. By Leo Paul Robert, from Les Oiseaux dans la Nature 28. Vintage botanical illustration 29. Still from The Secret Garden movie, 1993.

Winter Warming

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Oh, the days of January, I love them so. I love that the weather is cold, the garden is sleeping, the skies are gray. I love that. I love hibernating, and flannel sheets, and flannel nightgowns, and hot tea, and pretty tea mugs. I love yarn, and knitting, and television at night, and dark. I'm tired, and getting over my cold, and wanting to go slow, and wanting to go upstairs early. The house is frowsy and soft. I'm gearing up to Marie-Kondo everything in sight, but not right now. No, not right now. Right now everything is a bit droopy, and needs fresh paint, and to be vacuumed for hours. I sit and make lists, stab at the taxes, pick up take-out Indian food, read picture book after picture book after picture book at bedtime, and listen to a thousand six-year-old hopes and fears. Her warm body beside mine, we listen to the wind and rain, and talk about going to Great Wolf Lodge someday, where they have an indoor water park, and water buckets falling on your head, and pool after pool after pool of warm water. I'm in. Take me there. Let's go now.

We went to a conference with Mimi's teacher the other day and it's like . . . I could just sit there and talk about my kid all. day. long. I love her two teachers and I love her school, and love how she is thriving there. I don't love the commute, but I'm trying to learn to like it. It's long, and can be ugly if I take the busy way, which I usually don't, and then it's just plain long and slow. I've been listening to The Secret Garden audio-book (read by Finola Hughes) while I drive, but it's almost over. I think I really need to get into podcasts. I don't even know what I want in a podcast, honestly. I'm not sure where to start. And can you download them so you don't have to use data on your phone while you're listening? Or . . . how does that even work? I don't seem to know anything about anything that everyone else knows lately. Thank you in advance.

I've been thinking and working a lot on the Secret Garden projects and the bath boxes that will go with them. What I think we will do is offer two different craft projects -- one is an embroidery project (not cross stitch, just regular free embroidery, of the robin, and the key), and one is a knitting project. The embroidery project is small, about 5" in diameter and will fit and be framed in a 6" hoop (which will be included with the kit). The knitting project will include a pattern for a pair of simple handwarmers decorated with with duplicate stitch, and will include hand-dyed fingering-weight yarn for the main color of the handwarmers and also all of the small amounts of yarn you will use to duplicate-stitch the designs on top. Then, if you'd like, each project can come with the Secret Garden–inspired bath box, which will include a bar of our handmade cold-process soap, a lotion bar, a really pretty apothecary jar of bath soak, a wax sachet, and a little candle.

You may order either of the kits with or without a bath box, or you may order just the bath box. We are going to take pre-orders for all of this in the next couple of weeks, and then it will take at least six weeks for us to ship everything. It will take this long because we don't know how many orders for everything we will get and we want to make sure we can include everyone who wants any of these items. So, since the soap takes six entire weeks to cure, we will continue to make soap almost every day in anticipation of orders. We also need to order the hoops I think I want to use for the framing of the embroidery project from Europe, and they have a long turn-around time (also about six weeks after ordering). So that puts us shipping around the beginning of April, and if you've read The Secret Garden, doesn't that seem kind of like the perfect time for this? I definitely will put together a post that shows you my inspiration for all the things we're working on for this, like I did for the advent calendar. I love making those collages so much and will start working on one later this week. I can't wait.

I've watched a few of the Tidying Up episodes on Netflix. I honestly get choked up every time they thank the house. It's weirdly emotional. I would've never thought to do that but it feels very poignant. It's a really beautiful moment in the episodes, I think. I also watched the documentary Three Identical Strangers last night and that was so incredibly intense. Did anyone else see it? Man. I don't even know what to say about that. As an adoptive parent, especially, it chilled me to the bone to think that they separated those babies. Unrelated, my sister Julie got me the British TV Field Guide for my birthday and I am psyched. I should do a run-down of my favorite British TV shows (mostly mysteries and thrillers) this past year. I love Shetland, Vera, Happy Valley (OH MY WORD crazy intense), Last Tango in Halifax, No Offense, Striking Out, Acceptable Risk, and Keeping Faith. Should I tell you about those or do you already know them?

I took that moon photo during the Super Blood Wolf Moon lunar eclipse! Josh was over and he and Andy were gonna go out to the garage to play video games; they went out on the back porch and flipped out because the eclipse just happened to be almost total at that moment and we had an awesome view of it from the porch. I grabbed my tripod and put it on the back table and got a few photos of the moon right before the clouds moved in. So that's almost total eclipse right there. It was just so totally cool to see that. I'm so glad they just happened to be going outside at that moment or we would've missed it!

The sweet winter field painting is the print I bought from Jo Grundy and had framed a few years ago, and I love it so much. And that beautiful watercolor of Amelia riding the rabbit? The sweetest gift from the most lovely Emily Winfield Martin several years ago. I absolutely treasure it, and it hangs over Mimi's bed.

December 1st through 4th, and a Lotion Bar for Winter Days

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Well, hello! It's now December 4th! Let's open the Northern Light Advent Calendar!

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For the first four days of the advent calendar, we had three mini-skeins (one with sparkle) and a pattern that I wrote specifically for hand-dyed mini skeins called the Northern Light Cowl.

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It's a perfect pattern for evening knitting on the sofa while watching a movie. It's made from repeated groups of short rows (without wraps; just turn and go), and all you need to do is set up your stitch markers and knit the repeat ninety-eight times. Then you stitch the short ends together, then pick up all of the bottom edge stitches, knit a few more rows of garter stitch, and you're done. Amelia and I wear a lot of cowls because we can't lose them and they don't have a lot of bulk in the back. I love cowls, and I hope you love this one! The pattern is available as an immediate digital download for $4 right here.

We also received the tins for our lotion bars and I've updated the inventory to reflect every single bar that is finished and ready to ship, including our newest bar, Peppermint Cream:

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I love this sweet and delicate design and it smells heavenly. It's made of local beeswax, shea butter, coconut oil, a bit of lanolin, and scented with first-distill peppermint essential oil and a touch of Balsam of Peru, which has a vanilla-ish scent (since there is no true vanilla essential oil). If we sell out of what is there, we will make more, but those won't ship for another week or so, so if you are trying to get presents for Christmas please order as soon as possible so that we can get them in the mail. These would make such perfect little stocking stuffers!

I have lots of weekend pictures to show you but I wanted to post this because it's taking me so long to go through all of the photos. We had such a nice weekend. I hope your holiday season is off to a really lovely start!

Wrapping It Up

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Well, hello there! How are you? I finally have a morning to write. This is our long day, with ballet at the end of it, and it is just plain looooooong. Ballet doesn't end until 5:00 p.m. For us, that's very late to be out of the house. We're getting used to being out when it's dark. It's suddenly dark, and cold. November! It's here.

Thank you beyond words for all of your orders for the advent calendar. I'm so grateful for your interest and your support. We are almost done wrapping every single thing and are planning to ship at the beginning of next week. It's very exciting to finally be at this point and I'm so anxious to finally start sharing the goodies here. I'm already working on my next project, which will be inspired by the book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is such a beloved book. The version illustrated by Inga Moore is just so extraordinary. Andy, Amelia, and I have been listening to the audio version read by Finola Hughes, and I seriously can't recommend it enough. She does an amazing job. And I am one of those weird people who really just can't get into audiobooks. But this one is totally on point. I love it.

I drew a new embroidery design inspired by the story, and worked it over the weekend, and I just loved doing it. Almost the entire thing is done in a single ply of DMC floss. It was such a cool experience to watch Mr. Robin come to life stitch by stitch by stitch. I didn't think I could do something so naturalistic but it sort of happened like magic. It's honestly easy! You just do it! This design will be available as a kit that is part of another treat box later this spring. (It will also be available as a stand-alone kit.) I'm also planning to do a yarn/knitting version of the treat box, and I'm working on that now, too. Stay tuned. We will make a lot more of these, hopefully one for everyone who would want one. It will be smaller than the advent calendar and the items in it will not be wrapped — the wrapping of every single item in the advent calendar was absolutely bonkers, and I'm afraid that was a one-time-only experience for this crew! I literally lost track of the number of hours we spent wrapping. So this will free us up just to make more boxes. I have so many ideas. It's gonna be really fun.

I took a soap-making class at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) over the weekend and it was really fun. Those pink moons are my first-ever bars of cold-process soap! They are made with olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, lye, almond cybilla fragrance oil, ground oatmeal, and madder root. They won't be ready for another five weeks or so. Andy and I went to the bookstore on Monday while Mimi was at her grandma's and I got a couple of soap-making books and now I'm so anxious to make so much more. I started following a bunch of soap-makers on Instagram and have been watching soap-making videos on YouTube and ohhhhhhh dear, here we go. Andy knows the signs of an obsession coming on. He says he sees one coming. I have many, so I hardly notice anymore. I've been so excited by the new things I've learned this year. This is exactly what wintertime is for.

I also started a micro granny-stitch crocheted blanket inspired by this lovely one by Deb. I, too, used Lucy's tutorial for the stitch (I chained 302 to start) and this video for the magic knot method for changing colors. I've never used magic knot before and it's pretty wonderful. You do end up with little knots on the edges but they're so small I don't care. I planning to give this to Amelia. I'm using all fingering-weight mostly hand-dyed yarns, both my own and those that I just have. My mom gave me the headboard and footboard from my childhood Jenny Lind bed. We don't have the side rails (or, for that matter, a box spring). But I think I want to try to find some of those second-hand (if they fit — are they standardized? I need the kind that hook in) and set this bed up for Amelia. Her Ikea toddler bed extends all the way to a regular twin size but it's so damn low that it's really hard to make and I seriously don't think I have ever approached that bed without stubbing my toe on that middle leg and practically fallen into the bed. I've literally kicked that thing probably a thousand times. It makes me insane. Anyway, she's six years old now and she's ready for a taller bed, and I loved this Jenny Lind when I was little. She's just starting to want to hang out in her bed before sleeping and after waking up. She has a clipboard with paper on it that she carries all over the house now and she is constantly drawing. She sits up with her little light on and draws almost every night before she falls asleep. This is just amazing to me. I don't know why. When kids just start doing stuff like this, stuff that they just decide to do with no prompting, no suggestion, no encouragement, etc., it is so exciting. It's just all them, becoming themselves. I love it. I love her.

***Oh! By the way — several people have mentioned to me that they were having trouble with my blog lately, and I was too. I opened a help ticket with Typepad and they wrote back and said that last month they "upgraded to support HTTPS — something which had been requested by many Typepad bloggers for months. Some of our more veteran bloggers like you may have links that use http instead of https in older content and so these will need to be updated to use the secure URL now that it is available." So, it turned out that the links in my template did need to be updated. I was able to figure that out and fix them, and it seems to be working fine now, but do let me know if you have any more problems and I will look into it!

****Actually, I don't know that it's fixed. It looks like all of the old photos are still calling up the http prefix. More to come on this — I've opened another ticket. UPDATE: Looks like Typepad was making further changes yesterday that were causing my old photos problems, but I'm told they've discarded those changes and are still working on a future solution. So, we'll stay tuned and I'll keep you posted. Thank you! XO, a

Northern Light Yarn Advent Calendar Now On Sale -- SOLD OUT

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Hello! The Northern Light Yarn Advent Calendar will be available today, Wednesday, November 7,  at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, and then again later today at 6:00 p.m. PST until both batches sell out. To purchase a kit (U.S. orders only, please), please CLICK HERE starting at 10:00 a.m.

For further information, please read this post about the calendar.  Thank you! XOX, alicia

***FIRST BATCH HAS SOLD OUT. I'm so sorry for the frustration. The site crashed, and then started working, and then sold out within minutes. We will be adding more this evening at 6:00 p.m.

***SECOND BATCH HAS SOLD OUT. I am speechless and I thank you beyond words. Thank you so, so much. If you did not get one, please know that we will be making special treats available soon. I promise! Xxoxoxoxoxo

The Inspiration for My Yarn Advent Calendar

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These are my winter colors.

Sea-glass greens of the winter woods. The muted gold of lit candles. Moody grays of heavy clouds. The lilac skies in the winter gloaming. Neon pink and lemon-yellow Christmas lights. The violet luminescence of alpenglow. The cool whites of snowfall. The warm browns of the winter kitchen. Hot brown tea in my teacup. Piles of peachy quilts on the bed. Knitted blue things falling out of baskets. White flannel nightgowns on tiny tip-toers. I like mustard golds and ballet pinks, inky-dark blues and milky greens. I like Arctic sunrise colors. Mountain snowstorm colors. Nordic rose-golds and frozen ice blues. The opalescent rainbow of sparkles on snow.

For the past few months, I've been working on a "yarn advent calendar" to sell. Have you ever heard of these? People do them all sorts of different ways. Mine will be like this: You will receive a box filled with individually wrapped goodies sometime between Thanksgiving and the beginning of December. Then on December 1, you will start opening your treats, and you will open one for each day of December until December 25. These treats will include twelve different hand-dyed 20g fingering-weight mini-skeins, twelve other treats, and, for December 25, one full-size 100g skein of single-ply fingering-weight super-wash 100% Merino wool. The mini-skeins and the treats for the 1st through the 24th will alternate in a mostly random way. The mini-skeins are all fingering-weight yarns, but they are in many different colors in several different super-wash yarn bases, including Merino wool/Tussah silk, Merino/cashmere/nylon, Merino/lurex (metallic), Targhee wool/nylon, and Corriedale wool/nylon. Some of the colors are subtly shaded with few "speckles"; some of the colorways are busy with color and spot. All of them have been hand-dyed by us here in our kitchen in small batches, lovingly handled and carefully colored by way of the odd little process I developed over the past several months of dyeing yarn. After dyeing, we wound every single mini by hand. (I won't do that again, but I did it this time because I wanted a variety of bases. . . . ) My speckles are sort of soft with some dark bits, and my colors are generally soft, clear, and light. I just really try to dye each yarn exactly how I like it, and what I love most about the yarns I've been dyeing is that I think they knit up so beautifully. Sometimes I really like hard-speckled indie-dyed yarn in when it's in the skein but I've noticed that I like it a lot less when I knit it up. My yarns knit up in a really pretty, kind-of subtle way, in my opinion, with gentle color changes punctuated occasionally by flecks of darker or brighter colors. The yarns, when knitted, really do remind me of opals.

What will the treats be? When I started brainstorming what little treats I wanted to include in this calendar, I knew I wanted to include things that winter knitters would use or like. Each calendar has many elements in common, and some things that are completely unique; no two are exactly the same. Some of them are things I've made by hand. Some of them are things that Andy and Kady and Kelsey and Kayla and Sadie and Lydia and even Amelia have helped me make (and wrap). Some of them are things I bought just because I thought they were wonderful and that you would like to have them. Some of them are things to eat and drink; I worked with several amazing Portland and Northwest vendors to provide you with four of these special things. Most of the things that I made by hand are things I had never made before I started working on this kit. I taught myself a lot of new stuff. Many, many hours, weeks, and months of trial and error and experimentation and just plain hard work went into making these things truly special, and I am so proud of all of them. I've had the absolute best time creating all of these gifts, as well as the yarn, and I sincerely hope you love it all.

It's been really hard for me to make this decision, but I have decided that we will sell and ship these to the United States only, and will not take international orders for these advent calendars. We are planning to ship these calendars the week of November 19. There will only be 50 available for purchase, and they will be $215 each, plus $15 shipping in the United States only. We will ONLY ship these to addresses in the U.S. The boxes are too heavy, the shipping costs are too high, there are food items in the boxes, there is glass in the boxes, we don't track international packages, we can't control customs costs for you, and we definitely can't guarantee receipt or delivery on time — there are just too many factors that are causing me no end of stress around this, so for this first time out, we have decided to simplify this situation and ask that you do not order a box if you are outside of the United States. . . . I'm terribly sorry if you were looking forward to this, and hoping to have one shipped overseas. If we continue to do these in the future, I will find a way to accommodate.

Also, if you would like to order other things from my shop, please place a separate order, as we cannot ship anything else with these advent calendar boxes. They are only big enough to hold the advent calendar, and they will serve as both the gift box and shipping box at the same time.

Once these advent calendars sell (if they sell) they will be completely sold out. There are absolutely no more than fifty boxes because that is literally all that we have made. However, I am planning on selling some of the special treats that are in the package to the general public; they will be available only after the recipients of the advent calendars have opened their treats on the specific day that they are scheduled. So if you miss out on the advent calendar itself, you will be able to purchase some of the treats included à la carte, after the surprises have been revealed to the original recipients. I'll be showing you what's in the advent calendars day by day as December goes on, because I think that will be so much fun.

My yarn advent calendars will go on sale at two different times: The first 25 will be released on Wednesday, November 7, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. The second 25 will be released later that same day, November 7, at 6:00 p.m. I hope this gives more people a chance to get one if they want it. Please know that you must complete payment in order to get a calendar; the cart does not hold your purchase as you shop. You must go all the way through the checkout process to complete your purchase before it is yours.

This project has been a true experiment for me and I have learned a lot, and I know I will learn even more as I put these on sale and deliver them in the next few weeks. We are almost done with everything here. If you miss out (assuming these sell), please know that if everything works out we plan to do more of these around different themes but on a smaller scale — about half the size — in the future. My next theme that I am already dreaming about is The Secret Garden. I'm super excited. Let me know if you'd be interested in that one. It will help us plan.

Phew. Anyway, thank you for indulging me and if you have any questions I will try to answer them! Thank you!!!

Photos and illustrations, from top to bottom: 1. Children Playing in Snow by Lucy Grossmith 2. By Alicia Paulson 3. Unknown 4. By Alicia Paulson 5. Alicia Paulson 6. Snow Girl by Sweet Reality XO 7. Morning Mist by Akihiro Hori 8. By Alicia Paulson 9. Unknown 10. By MixPixBox 11. Winter's Tale by Birgit Franik 12. Winter Garden by Lucy Grossmith 13. By Alicia Paulson 14. Encaustic by Jeff League 15. Urho Kekkonen National Park, Finland by Valentino Valkaj 16. Unknown 17. Poem by Natalia Crow 18. By Alicia Paulson 19. Pink Block on Green by John Hoyland 20. Blueberry Scones by Yuliya 21. Alicia Paulson 22. Winter Morning by the Top Road by Nicholas Hely Hutchison 23. By Alicia Paulson 24. By Alicia Paulson 25. Alicia Paulson 26. Unknown.

Sweater Weather!

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Good day! Hello! How are you? Hellooooooooo! It's me. I've been bonkers busy and I'm so happy I finally have time to sit and write. Hello! [I'm waving.]

* * * T H A N K   Y O U   S O o o o o o   M U C H * * *

lovely, lovely people for all of your orders over the past couple of weeks. I'm so excited about the new kits and lotion bars and it's always just so nice to get your feedback after scurrying away behind the scenes for so long. Things are coming together and it feels great! Kady (new assistant) is sitting across the room writing postcards to go into orders in the next weeks, and yesterday she packed up our little business card packages, and Andy is about halfway done pulling floss. Next he'll start cutting fabric. Kelsey has an infant so she's at home in her kitchen making hundreds of lotion bars for me. Amy's darling daughters are wrapping and date-stamping mini-skeins for the advent calendar at their house. Kady and I dyed thirty new skeins of yarn on Monday, and those will be mini-skeins for the advent calendars soon. It's truly like a hive of activity around here, and I like it. It feels as if we are squirrels ourselves, industriously preparing for first frost. School has been awesome. At home, there are new railings on the front stairs and new scents being tested in the kitchen. Yarn is being wound, and there is lots of knitting, and I'm teaching myself to make candles. Amelia has been drawing and writing and creating little books constantly. Andy's been cooking for us and there have been park visits and neighborhood adventures. We're getting ready for his parents to visit, and for Amelia's big family birthday party in a few weeks. Everyone is excited! I'm doing that embroidery (from this pattern from Florals and Floss) on a bodice for Amelia's birthday dress that I need to finish. It's go-time.

Pictured above is the Sorbet Mini sweater I'm knitting for Amelia. The kid's pattern is only in Danish, so I'm using the English version of the adult pattern (which I made for myself but apparently haven't photographed yet; I will do that) and plugging the kid's numbers in. She saw my sweater and wanted a mini version, so I had to cast on immediately, as you will when your child shows even the slightest interest in your knitting. I have so many things I need to get up on Ravelry that I haven't yet, so don't bother looking for this from me there. But I will do that soon. I have a basket full of WIPs, it's crazy. All I want to do is knit. I splurged on some yarn from Churchmouse Yarns (along with a candle and a bar of soap) and I'm planning to make Amelia a Volo sweater with that after seeing Kyrie's on Instagram the other day. (That picture just literally destroys me. It is so gorgeous.)

Amelia was home with the sniffles yesterday so we made applesauce muffins, which is one of my mom's recipes from my childhood. They are so delightful.

Applesauce Muffins

2 cups Bisquik*
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup applesauce
1 slightly beaten egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

*If you don't have Bisquik (I don't have it but my mother always did, and this is her recipe) you can use 2 cups of all-purpose flour plus 3 teaspoons baking powder and then add in 2 tablespoons of melted butter, as well.

Mix ingredients together until just combined. Fill 12 muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake 12 minutes at 400 degrees F. Let cool a bit then dip top in melted butter and then in cinnamon sugar.

And here is the recipe for applesauce that Andy always makes for us and it is wonderful. I know it seems odd to use the microwave but this applesauce has a really fresh taste that is so much nicer than cooked applesauce on the stove top, in my opinion:

Applesauce
from the New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

2 McIntosh apples
2 Granny Smith or other tart apples
1 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Halve and core the apples: peel them if you like. Cut each one into 6 wedges or 1-inch chunks. Combine the apples, water, and lemon juice in a deep microwave-safe 2 1/2-quart casserole. Toss the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and add to apple mixture. Cook, uncovered for 5 minutes. Stir, pressing apples into liquid and return to microwave. Cook for another 5 minutes. Using a hand blender, mix apples into applesauce.

Would you also like to make carnitas? We used this recipe from The New York Times and it was absolutely scrumptious.

Pictured above is the rainy afternoon bath I was taking last weekend. I was in the happiest spot — perfect water temperature, vanilla bubble bath, bath pillow that my dear mother-in-law gave me for my birthday, reading Little Women — right before Andy almost cut the tip of his thumb off (thank you for saving it, fingernail) and Amelia went outside to talk to some people (?!?!?) and the dog started barking her head off and running down the front steps to the sidewalk (never, ever does she do this, but naturally she picked that time to do it, and it turns out she was talking to/barking at a fellow neighborhood Cardigan corgi named Mulberry). Andy howling, then wandering out with a bloody dishtowel on his thumb and his face white as a sheet and not explaining anything, Clover losing her mind, Amelia talking to strangers. It was full-on Donnybrook. Naturally, by the time I had hauled myself out of the tub and dried off and put my clothes on the situation came back under Mr. Paulson's control (he's okay, and Clover came back up the stairs, nonchalant, as if nothing had ever happened). I should've gotten back in the water but I didn't. Nevertheless, that tub and that book and I are going to need to reschedule. I want to make my own soap and bubble bath, too. I got one of those things that covers the drain on the tub and lets the water get really, really high and it is literally life-changing.

Oh, and also thank you so much for all of the kind words and inquiries about Amelia's portrait from a few weeks ago. I painted it myself. It was a total fluke, I literally don't know how I did it, and I'm pretty convinced it was magic, so naturally I haven't tried to paint or even thought any more about it since.

***The cowl is an advent calendar sneak peek . . . :))) More on this soon!

August

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I'm having a lazy day. Andy and Amelia are at the zoo with friends and the house here is quiet and calm. The sky is overcast, the air cool. All of this, every single thing, is so different from how it's been around here lately, how it's been around here usually (hot, loud, chaotic, bright, messy, frantic). I'm looking outside and there's not even a breeze to ruffle the leaves. That's how quiet it is, and how still.

We finished swimming lessons for the summer yesterday. I get very, very nostalgic as each thing finishes lately. Last year swimming lessons seemed to go on forever. This year, July flew. Is that how everything's going to be now? Fraught with flight? Swimming lessons, by their nature, go too fast. There's so much preparation: getting the kid to stop doing whatever she's doing to go potty/put on bathing suit/put on sunscreen/fill up water bottle, then hustling out to car with swim basket in tow (clothes, underpants, towels, goggles, sunscreen, etc.), then driving twenty minutes up to the lesson. Then going to the half-hour lesson. Sitting on the lawn chair, watching, I remark to anyone within earshot that I wish the lesson lasted three hours. I would like to sit there on the lawn chair with my feet up in the shade, listening to the pool sounds, watching people play in the water, watching people play with my child, for three full hours. That would be a good start. But before I know it, it's over. Amelia, dripping, beaming, comes toward me. I hold the towel open and gather her into it and she climbs on top of me and lays her wet head on my chest. We lay like that for as long as I can get her to stay, just resting. But then she wants to take her shower so it's up and to the locker room where the girls stand there, trance-like under the running water. We try to get them to share the space, to rinse off, to wash their hair, to rinse out the shampoo, but they're zombified by the warmth and the spray. We moms fuss, wringing out wet suits, collecting goggles, looking for brushes in bags, encouraging our daughters to make room for incomers, and perhaps even move along. The girls stand and stare into space. Finally, one of us: "Okey dokey, let's go, ladies." Reluctantly they come, shuffling out. Again, towels. Peeling off suits, dropping dry clothes onto the sopping floor, picking them up, stuffing damp arms into dry sleeves, all in slow motion. Getting dressed literally takes a forty-five minutes. The half-hour swim lesson, which goes by at lightning-speed, winds up actually taking half a day, when all is said and done.

Nevertheless, I will miss it all. But it's August, already and finally August, and now we get to be lazy. There's nowhere to be every morning at 10:40 a.m. anymore. I couldn't care less what time it is. I let Amelia take an entire bag of tortillas into the studio and eat four of them along with half a bag of frozen blueberries in front of the computer, watching Tumble Leaf for three hours. The weather last week was so relentlessly scorching hot that I literally felt cooked. Deep fried. One night the air conditioner stop working and I bleated in panic, and thought about dumping a glass of freshly poured ice water straight over my head. July was just so busy, and so hot. I feel like I'm in recovery from it, somehow, and just want to lay in front of the open windows, drinking iced tea straight from the pitcher while surfing pictures of unicorn cakes on Pinterest. That feels like plenty to do now. A good day's work. 

Strawberry Moon

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The picture I took of the strawberry moon, above, was actually taken in the early morning. The moon was so bright the night before I couldn't even look at it. And I saw two planets, one way to the left and one way to the right. I think I read that one of them had to have been Saturn, Amelia's favorite planet (thanks Little Einsteins). It was so beautiful.

These pictures go way back! It's been a bit of a scramble lately. I'm still making and shipping lotion bars at all hours, and now we're waiting for more labels to come from the printer, which is taking forever. They are supposed to arrive on Tuesday, now. Next time I launch anything I'm going to do it as a "pre-order." I should've done that with these but . . . I don't know why I didn't. I've been doing this long enough to know better, I would think. But anyway, thank you again for your patience — I've written directly to people who are still waiting for bars to let them know where I'm at. All is still on-track for Summer Storm kits (and the lotion bars that were ordered with them, as well) to ship, probably in the third and last weeks of July by the time we get it all together. Andy has pulled all of the embroidery floss, cross -stitch fabric is supposed to arrive today and then it will be cut, and I sent in the pattern to be printed yesterday. Nanny Katie, who used to help me with Posie years ago (seven years ago now!) is a high school teacher these days. She is on her summer break and is going to be working with me again until the fall. She started this past Monday and it's been so great to have her hanging around again. Love it.

And by the way, we are planning to do 600 Summer Storm kits so there are still tons left if you would like to order one. And the PDF for that pattern will be released as soon as I get caught up with all of this shipping. I'll let you know when it's ready to go.

Other than that, we've been hanging around the house quite a bit, going here or there when it's possible, otherwise just hanging. It's been really, really nice. Since Amelia got out of school several weeks ago, we've literally had nothing at all scheduled. I thought that would be stressful, but it turns out that she is just at the absolute perfect age to simply hang around. It's kind of amazing. We were at the park with some preschool friends the other day (which took, let me tell you, about twenty emails between ten people to find two hours when three of us could get together — ridiculous — this is why I miss school!) and she was just able to play, and play, and play, for hours, completely in flow and absorbed in her sand castles and sand balls and water sourcing. Watching stuff like that, watching them just be so occupied and lose all track of time, and not care where their snacks are, or what's happening later, or who's around or not around, etc., is one of the absolute greatest joys of parenting for me. Hands down. Isn't it just incredible that they do that? Is just so . . . human. Humans just have that capacity to find things so interesting, even really small humans. I mean, I don't know. I really do only have one life-goal for Amelia, and that is that I hope she finds something in life that she just loves to do. That's really all. I think everything else can come from there. I know people who don't really have that and I think it's hard for them, and then lots of other things are harder. . . .

I've got many sweaters happening at night. The white-ish sweater is one I started, honestly, months ago now. It's Alfred's Sweater by Petite Knit for Mimi, on size 3 needles in single-ply fingering, dyed by me. It is a sloooooooow knit. So slow. Basically, it's an entire sweater done in ribbing. It's so pretty but I'm ready to move along. The greenish one is the Rose Sweater by Knit by TrineP in 6-12 month size in single-ply Merino fingering, dyed by me, that I made for the @knit_beyond_borders auction on Instagram. The pinkish one is another Rose Sweater, this time for Mimi, in single-ply Merino fingering called Antique Rose, dyed by Lichen and Lace. I've been terrible about updating my Ravelry page with the things I've worked on this spring and summer, but hopefully I'll get my act together an do that soon. I'm super anxious to start a #sorbetcardigan and my yarn for that should be arriving any day. That one's for me. I wish I was a notebook-keeping type of person because I feel like I have a lot of things that I see that I want to keep track of and make in the future, or color combinations that are pretty, or someone's yarn that's sold out that I want to remember and try to get next time, or whatever, and instead all of these things just scatter through the air around me like dandelion seeds, or something. I'm incredibly disorganized about my inspirations. I have Ravelry and Pinterest boards and IG saves and all of that. But I don't really have my own personal method of keeping track of anything, anything at all. And I want that. I think it would help me lower my shoulders. I keep a lot of things in my head and I'm not sure why.

I did just treat myself to this lovely sounding book box and I can hardly wait until it gets here. And now I think I'm going to go get some fancy ice cream to bring home to Andy and Amelia. Summer. I'm gettin' on board. It takes me a while, but it's happening.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.